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     MANUSCRIPTS and ARCHIVAL MATERIAL

Edward O. McCue Records Pertaining to Westmoreland v. CBS

 Collection
Identifier: MSS-88-4

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection contains copies of records compiled by Edward O. McCue to disclaim assertions made against General William Westmoreland on a CBS program aired on January 23, 1982.

Dates

  • 1967-1983

Creator

Biographical / Historical

Mike Wallace interviewed Westmoreland for the CBS special The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception. The documentary, shown on January 23, 1982, and prepared largely by CBS producer George Crile III, alleged that Westmoreland and others had deliberately underestimated Viet Cong troop strength during 1967 in order to maintain US troop morale and domestic support for the war. Westmoreland filed a lawsuit against CBS.

In Westmoreland v. CBS, Westmoreland sued Wallace and CBS for libel, and a lengthy legal process began. After the trial was in progress, Westmoreland suddenly settled with CBS for an apology, no more than CBS had originally offered. Some contend that Judge Leval's instructions to the jury over what constituted "actual malice" to prove libel convinced Westmoreland's lawyers that he was certain to lose. Others point out that the settlement occurred after two of Westmoreland's former intelligence officers, Major General Joseph McChristian and Colonel Gains Hawkins, testified to the accuracy of the substantive allegations of the broadcast, which were that Westmoreland ordered changes in intelligence reports on Viet Cong troop strengths for political reasons. Disagreements persist about the appropriateness of some of the journalistic methods of Mike Wallace in particular.

A deposition by McChristian indicates that his organization developed improved intelligence on the number of irregular Viet Cong combatants shortly before he left Vietnam on a regularly scheduled rotation. The numbers troubled Westmoreland, who feared that the press would not understand them. He did not order them changed, but instead did not include the information in reporting to Washington, which in his view was a decision that the data were not appropriate to report.

Based on later analysis of the information from all sides, it appears clear that Westmoreland could not sustain a libel suit because CBS's principal allegation was that he had caused intelligence officers to suppress facts. Westmoreland's anger was caused by the implication of the broadcast that his intent was fraudulent and that he ordered others to lie.

Wikipedia contributors, "William Westmoreland," Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Westmoreland

Extent

2 Linear Feet

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These materials were donated to Special Collections by Edward O. McCue in October of 1988.

Repository Details

Part of the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Arthur J. Morris Law Library
580 Massie Road
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22903 United States